“Go, sell what you have…”

Getting compliments on your personal belongings takes on a whole new meaning when you’re about to get rid of everything you own. In recent months I’ve made more than one loose acquaintance — including my doctor — very uncomfortable when I eagerly asked, “Do you want it?” after they told me they liked something I was wearing.

A good friend who is also hoping to enter religious life this summer put it so well: getting rid of your belongings in preparation for religious life is like standing on a precipice looking into eternity with everything that has always distracted us suddenly behind us. There’s nothing left: just me and the Great Unknown. In fact, as he pointed out, everyone will end up at this moment at some point in their lives, we’re just getting there a little earlier.

I keep running back to that scene in the Gospel, when the rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. He has kept all the commandments, but he knows there’s something more. And Jesus looks at him, loves him, and says, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mk. 10:21). The young man’s reaction — going away sad because he had many possessions — has always broken my heart. In the past few years especially I’ve found myself wanting to shake him. You’ve just been offered the world, I want to shout at him. How can you walk away?

But here I am, faced with a similar invitation, and every day there’s a little twinge. That little porcelain boat from the Dollar Store my sister gave to me for Christmas back in 1991 — it’s a silly trinket, but I’ve carried it around for years, and I admit to a tremor at the thought of letting go. The baby blanket my five-year-old self used to use as a royal robe when playing dress-up … my books and my piano … so many of things we take for granted, right down to the use of that comfortable word, “mine.”

Yes, even letting go of “my” friends is proving to be a lot harder than I ever expected (and I never fooled myself that it would be easy).

God doesn’t ask any of us for halves. That’s what I’m facing in so many concrete ways right now. When he asks us for everything, he means everything. (And by the way, he asks all of us for everything.) He pushes us past the point of comfort, even past discomfort, to that place where the tears start and we cry, “But I can’t!”

This isn’t relegated to those of us discerning religious vocations. We’re all called to this. It’s part and parcel of the Christian life, dare I say, of being human. When you feel you’ve done enough, you’re wrong. There’s no such thing as “enough” for the soul that’s marching towards heaven. The question should always be, “All right, Lord. What now?” Because we can’t give him everything in one action, once. We’re temporal creatures, constantly moving from one minute to another, so giving our all must also be a temporal thing, an act repeated at every moment until we finally reach eternity.

And when you get right down to the nitty-gritty doing of it? It’s epic.

 

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A new profile — in discernment

I was blown away over the last two months by people’s generosity in helping me pay off my student loans so I can enter the convent at the end of the summer. So many people have been so incredibly good to me. Now I’m sharing the story of a young lady I recently met who is in a similar circumstance. She hopes to join the cloistered Dominicans in Linden, Virginia, but has to pay off some $30,000 in debt first. I know many people have approached me recently asking if they can help, and I’ve had to turn you away as my goals are met. Would you be willing to consider helping my sister instead? She’ll be doing me and my community and the whole Church an incalculable good by devoting her life to prayer. 

But I’ll let her do the talking. Please help her if you can, and help spread the word by sharing her link, or this post, or both!  

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Maria Gonzalez
I am 28 years old, and was raised Roman Catholic since infancy. I thought about becoming consecrated to God in religious life about 4 years ago, immediately after I graduated college in 2010. Like most college experiences, mine was entangled in worldly distractions. This was because I was not firmly rooted in faith as a youth. I mostly went through the motions while in Catholic School. Therefore, I was easily taken by this current once I entered college at the University of New Hampshire. During this time, I did not have the support of positive influences or that of family, nor did I realize that I needed them. I never gave thought to religious life. I slowly stopped attending mass regularly shortly after starting college because I hadn’t found any Catholic fellowship or support on campus. The friendships I made were merely superficial. This left my heart empty and searching for God, though I was unaware of it. When I perceived it, I thought it homesickness. I tried to correct this through dating. The foundation of these relationships were also based superficially, and therefore destined for failure. God then intervened and moved me by his Divine mercy to the healing of these wounds which I was acting out of.
One particular day in May 2010 while in adoration, I was inspired by the awareness of the mercy of the Holy Spirit at work in my life at this time. I was filled with great gratitude in my heart for this, and I felt moved to offer God my life totally. Immediately upon returning to a life of grace, the Holy Spirit was able to inspire me with God’s will which was given to me at baptism, so I started discerning different religious communities. As my relationship with God grew, so did his grace in my soul and his will became apparent to me in the desires of my heart. I knew that I wanted to give my life totally to God and his Church in union and in imitation of Christ crucified for humanity.
So I started studying and contacting contemplative communities. Through discovering St. Dominic and his spirituality, I discovered myself truly. As of Jan. 2014, I have found my life’s dream in a Monastery of cloistered Dominican Nuns in Linden, Virginia. I am greatly honored and thrilled to have found out about my acceptance this January! The only obstacle before I can enter is having to pay off all my student loan debt. This is because as a contemplative cloistered community, the nuns do not work in the world earning income. Therefore, they cannot afford to take on any debt. A nun’s apostolate, unlike active sisters who work in the world such as social work or teaching, consists in the offering of all of their prayers, works, joys, and sorrows for the Church and the world in solidarity with Christ crucified on the cross, as a Eucharistic offering. This is for the salvation of humanity, the success of the preaching mission of the Dominican friars, and the good of the Church. They are considered the powerhouse of prayer for the Church. As St. Therese of Lisieux put so eloquently, “In the Heart of the Church my mother, I will be love.” Nuns mediate the needs of the world to God, and God to the world through their prayer.
I have been actively fundraising on my own through the generosity of my family and friends through my website: www.youcaring.com/sendmariatotheconvent. I will carefully make a record of what each person has given me and acknowledge it in a thank you letter. I have every intention of making final vows and living out my whole life in the monastery. If for whatever reason I leave at any point, I am committed to repaying everyone the full amount donated who made it possible for me to enter through their generosity.
I would be forever grateful and promise to pray for yourself, your loved ones, and your intentions both now and while in the monastery. God bless you.

 

How eavesdropping led me to a resolution

One recent morning I sat in a coffee shop doing some freelance work and half listening to two mothers who sat chatting in chairs beside me. One of the women did most of the talking, and she complained. A lot.

She complained about her schedule, about her kid’s teacher, about long emails and too-short spring breaks, about the cold, about her husband’s not taking her seriously when she said she wanted move to California.

The impish part of me wanted to interrupt and ask if anything good had ever happened to her, or at least in the last week. For crying out loud, here she was hanging out with a friend on a work morning, drinking hot coffee and wearing comfortable clothes while the red-eyed, suit-wearing masses lurched in and out around her, desperate for their morning fortification before a long day at the office.

But after a few minutes of listening I winced — yes, physically winced — as something very unpleasant occurred to me. How often have I been that person pouring out all my tales of woe, my insecurities, my frustrations and worries and fears into the ready ears of sympathetic girlfriends over similarly warm cups of coffee on pleasant days off? In fact, come to think of it, when was the last time I had a chance for a heart-to-heart that didn’t turn into an all-out Mabel Venting Session?

I can’t think of a single time.

Because, truth be told, I’m a world-class whiner. That might be too modest, actually. I wrote the book on whining. (The book itself was pretty negative and sales were weak, so I don’t talk much about it. But I digress.) I have a pretty amazing life when you look at it objectively, but somehow there’s always something to complain about. Negative feelings will crop up, and they must be given their day in public, mustn’t they?

When I’m not whining I’m backhandedly expressing my petty hurts over perceived slights and offenses. This acquaintance didn’t come to my dinner party last week, that roommate has been giving me the cold shoulder ever since I innocently remarked that she could clean her own dishes every once in a while, and my sister hasn’t called or texted me in weeks, which must mean she hates me. There’s always something to mutter about.

We strive so hard to avoid hurting one another’s feelings that we just end up being ugly. Instead of addressing issues head-on directly with the person who is causing us an issue, we “play nice” to their faces and then vent our frustrations in completely unproductive ways. Okay, I say “we.” Some people have learned the fine art of confrontation, but too often I still hide behind the mask of “niceness” because it avoids unpleasant discussions and emotions.

But when the mask comes off? It’s hideous. There was nothing attractive about that woman I overheard in the coffee shop. Indeed, I don’t even remember what she looked like because I was so distracted by the ugliness of everything she had to say. Yet she’s probably a lovely person, a good wife, mother, and friend, and I probably caught her in the middle of her purging session, when all the ugliness came out at once because she’d kept it bottled up for so long.

I have a long way to go, but that morning forced me to take a good look at myself, and to make a promise: to live honestly and speak openly with those who have to live with me, instead of bottling all my emotions and pretending nothing is wrong. I’m terrible at it, but maybe confrontation gets easier — or at least a little bit less terrifying — with practice?

If it doesn’t, don’t tell me. I may not have the stamina to keep it up. But I’m determined not to let long-held bitterness over trivial things make me ugly. That’s not what God made community for, even if the realities of Other People can drive you crazy sometimes.

Mabel